What Tears Will Tell You
Globally, there are more than 50 million people who suffer from Alzheimer's or Parkinson’s. As most are aware, neither has a specific method of diagnosis or real cure. Current methods of diagnosis for both diseases rely heavily on a review of a patient’s medical history, neurological and physical examinations, cognitive and functional assessments and brain imaging. Early detection is absolutely crucial to the wellbeing of the sufferer. Even then, there is no hope to reverse either of these conditions. Early detection merely allows treatments to begin in order to slow the progression of the diseases.
However, Israeli research may offer renewed hope. The LacriScan diagnosis test uses tears to “identify a component in the tears that reflects processes in the brain, and in the early stages before the patient with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s develops clinical symptoms.” Reading about this promising research got me thinking. If tears can reveal diseases that are manifesting within our body, what else do our tears reveal?
Tears come for a variety of reasons and need no interpreter. They truly do cross cultural and language barriers. When somebody cries, we are generally able to determine the reason. Their tears may also cause us to shed our own. The same eyes that can cry tears of joy also weep from despair and pain. Tears may flow during a particularly moving song or at a jolting memory. Whatever the reason, tears are an intrinsic part of our life.
Sometimes we cry alone and sometimes in the presence of others. If we cry alone, we may be tempted to think that nobody knows. But God does. As Psalm 56:8 says: You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book? I am also reminded of Psalm 6:6-8: I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows old because of all my enemies. No matter how much you think your anguish and despair has gone unnoticed, not one moment has escaped the attention of God.
In 2 Kings 20, we learn of a time when King Hezekiah was desperately unwell and close to death. The first three verses read: In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’” Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD, saying, “Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. When we read of Hezekiah turning his face to the wall, it means that he wanted to speak to nobody else but God. So, he poured his heart out to the Lord. Often times it is good to have trusted family and friends to speak to about our despair. Above all, it is important that we speak to the Lord about the condition of our heart. He already knows what we are feeling, but He also wants us to be honest with Him and speak to Him.
As we move onto verses 4 and 5, Hezekiah is comforted by a message from Isaiah: And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. What sweet words they are to those who are suffering. That amongst all of the pain, the uncertainty, the ups and the downs – God hears our prayers; He sees our tears and, if it is in accordance with His will, He will heal us. Many grow uncomfortable when somebody weeps in their presence. But not God. He understands that tears are part of human sorrow as we make our way through a broken world. As Psalm 34:18 says: The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart. Have you ever noticed that sometimes the world loses patience with those who are broken? Empathy lasts for a time, but many will walk away once the burden of supporting a broken vessel becomes too much to bear. But not God. When others walk away, He draws near.
Naturally, whilst we remain in this age, tears are going to be our companion as we face moments of despair. In John 16, during the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus speaks to the disciples about the process of sorrow turning into joy. Verses 20 to 22 read as follows: Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. I want you to notice that God did not substitute joy for sorrow but that He turned sorrow into joy. In other words, God brings joy to our lives, not by substitution, but by transformation. This is why Jesus used the illustration of the woman giving birth. The same baby that caused the pain also caused the joy. God takes seemingly impossible situations, adds the miracle of His grace, and transforms trial into triumph and sorrow into joy. In the middle of childbirth, a mother is unable to grasp the impending joy because she is focused on the pain. So too it is with our trials. If you are in the midst of a trial right now and intently focused on your sorrow, you wonder how and when this sorrow is going to give way to joy. It is fine if you can’t understand the how right now. I feel exactly the same. I am still in the thick of recovery from a motor vehicle accident and two major surgeries. But, what I do know is that God’s ways are often too high and marvelous for us to grasp so we just have to wait on Him to transform the heartache into triumphant joy.
Before we close however, we must be clear that not all weeping invokes the compassion of the Lord. Let me quote some verses from Numbers 11, beginning with verse 4. This was a time in the wilderness when Israel, influenced by the mixed multitude amongst them, preferred Egypt’s meat to God’s presence: Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? Onto verse 10: Then Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and the anger of the LORD was greatly aroused; Moses also was displeased.
So, what do our tears tell us? They tell us that even though this life is filled with doubt and pain, brighter days are coming. Psalm 126:5 says: Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. Friends, the greatest joy is yet to come when God makes all things new again. This is the promise I cling to as a believer and Revelation 21:4 affirms it: And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” To that, may we say a hearty, “Maranatha”!